At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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Arts calendarCharlotte Observer, December 18th
The cast is Domingo, guitar and vocals; Jim Cooper, 12-string guitar and vocals; Marty DeJarnette, lead guitar; Sam Falls, percussion; and Miriam Stirewalt, vocals. They will be joined by Ethan Uslan, two-time world ragtime piano champion; classical...Read more
Get the Led out with “Over The Hills And Far Away”A.V. Club Milwaukee, December 17th
The introduction starts with an acoustic melody that goes from a plucky beginning into a real riff, providing crunchy power chords in the choruses and showcasing Page's six-string and 12-string guitar interplay. Then come those high Robert Plant vocals...Read more
The top 50 songs of the year: part two (30 to 11)Daily Review, December 15th
The Shelter Song could easily be a lost tape from 1971 with its chiming 12-string guitar line and fuzzed out vocals, but when it kicks in with the chorus it's like the onset of a dream. It's a particularly pertinent reminder that retro doesn't have to...Read more
The Story of Glyn Johns' Life in 'Sound Man' Is Refreshingly UnpretentiousPopMatters, December 15th
in 1971 where Keith Richards arrived late, left his car parked in the middle of the street as he couldn't find a parking space, and then nods to sleep on-stage while tuning his 12-string guitar only to come-to an hour later and continue tuning to...Read more
WOSTER: Self-conscious serenadingDaily Republic, December 12th
I did a passable job on 12-string guitar — unless the song required a heavy dose of hand speed — and had a voice suitable for writing newspaper columns. The image of us sitting on the porch picking and grinning came to mind as I thought of the ways...Read more
Stompbox Offers 12-String Sound From A 6-StringSonic State, November 26th
DigiTech has introduced the Mosaic Polyphonic 12-String Effect Pedal which they say provides the unmistakable sound of a 12-string guitar and its chime, jangle and harmonic richness. Tom Cram, Marketing Manager, DigiTech, told us, "The Mosaic is ideal ...Read more
SC4 free concerts to feature 12-string guitar playerPort Huron Times Herald, October 11th
St. Clair County Community College's Thursday Noon and Night Concert Series will continue Oct. 23 with 12-string guitar player Neil Jacobs. The concert will be at both noon and 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre on the college's Port Huron campus. Jacobs ...Read more
Taylor Guitars at 2014 Summer NAMM: 150E 12-String Guitar — Demo VideoGuitar World Magazine, July 28th
As always, several members of the Guitar World crew were on hand at the 2014 Summer NAMM Show in lovely and talented Nashville, Tennessee, taking pics, getting the latest gear news and shooting plenty of videos. While we were there, we stopped by the ...Read more